Conversations With Judy – Episode 14: Romantic Words – Installment 2

Me: “You know, I would rather be right here, snuggling with you, than with all of the best smelling skunks in the whole world.”

Judy: “Nice…”

Me: “Well, a guy’s gotta start somewhere…”

The Max Factor – The Final Chapter…


I sit at my keyboard with reddened eyes and tear streaked cheeks, in mourning and in gratitude. 

Mourning because my nearly constant companion and best buddy over the last three years, one week and one day, Max, is gone.

Gratitude because I thank God for seeing fit to finagle  a way  bring us together in the first place.

Max was, as any of you who love dogs will understand, part of the family. He was just about the happiest dog I ever met. No matter what, he always had a joyful demeanor and the look to go along with it… (See above – He almost always looked like that when he was awake.)

Except, perhaps, when he was taking a bath…


Or pointing at something…


For which he was trained at an early age…

Or when he was just feeling lazy, or patiently waiting for me to acknowledge him or say “Ya wanna go for a walk outside?”


He loved hiking in the woods…


No matter what the weather…


Even better if he was with a friend…


And even if he had a frozen butt…


He loved having fun in the snow, though he never quite got the concept of “mush!”…


He loved hanging out with the family…


And running in the back yard…


He even liked Panther, though she only learned to tolerate him…


And he had an affinity for waste baskets, though he never admitted it – even when he got caught he would give us the “who? Me?” look…


He loved helping me work in the yard…



He stuck by my side all day every day. While I was working in my office, he was right there beside my desk. I kept treats for him there, and every couple of hours I would ask him “You want a treat?”

Treat was one of the words he knew best… He never refused one. Even an hour before he died, he would still eat a treat, and be happy about it.

Max loved everything about life, I think. He was still a puppy at heart, though not in body. He kinda reminded me of my brother-in-law, Jeff, that way…

And kinda like me, too…

Being a “senior” dog (He was 13 when he died) when he first came to live with us, he had some arthritis in his hips. We spent thousands of hours massaging those hips, and happily so. He loved it. He would come up to us and we would scratch his head for about 15 seconds, and then he would start walking until his rear end was swung around and facing us, ready to be rubbed.

He loved our daily/nightly walks around the neighborhood… And he loved hiking with us in the back yard… And he always was a “puller”. No matter what mood he was in, once he was on a leash and walking around the neighborhood or the woods or anyplace else, he became a puppy again. He had to sniff everything that was associated with another animal, and when he wasn’t sniffing, he was dragging us along the path. 

And he would eat anything he could wrap his jaws around…

Until the last three days…

Every morning, he would be lying down outside our bedroom door, waiting for us to exit. And waiting for the magic word, “breakfast!”. Thursday, the 28th, I walked out and  announced  “breakfast time for Max!” as I proceeded down the hallway toward the doggie diner. . I fixed his breakfast and noticed that he wasn’t behind me waiting. I just figured that he would get to it when he felt like it.

Later that day I came downstairs for lunch, and I noticed that he hadn’t touched his breakfast. Alarm bells went off in my head, but I let it go.

Then, after work, I got him ready for a walk around the neighborhood. He was, as usual, excited about that and we started off. He wasn’t pulling me along. And he wasn’t sniffing. More alarm bells.

When we got back, I noticed that he had vomited in four places. 

At that point, I was really worried. When Judy got home, we talked about it and decided she would take him to the vet on Friday morning.

Judy and I stayed up with Max until 5:00 the next morning, trying to make him comfortable. At 9:30, Judy got him in to see the vet. They ran several tests and called Judy about noon. 

Long story short, Max was in critical condition with advanced liver cancer and in acute pain. We were crushed. They had him medicated with pain killers, and suggested they keep him overnight on IVs and check on him in the morning.

We talked about it and asked if we could bring him home and take care of him here, especially since no one would be there with him overnight. And we thought we could keep a better eye on him anyway.

They were wonderful. As long as he had no IVs inserted, we could bring him home. We picked him up at about 5:00 in the afternoon, along with several doses of the pain killer and an empathetic conversation with a wonderful nurse and doctor. But we knew that we would bring him back the next morning, and he would not be returning home with us again…

We wanted to make sure that his last night would be as comfortable and filled up with as many of his favorite things as we could… And it tore us up inside… He was in pain, his breathing was extremely labored and he couldn’t get or keep anything down.

We took him for his last walk around the neighborhood – it was slow and tough on Judy and me, but he enjoyed it…

Coming down our driveway, Max starts out on his last romp around the neighborhood.. His typically happy self..
Coming down our driveway, Max starts out on his last romp around the neighborhood.. His typically happy self..


Last night, Judy and I both slept next to Max’s bed, in front of the fireplace. Not so much sleep, actually. We spent the night being with him, petting his head and stroking his back, talking to him, telling him what a good dog he is and how much we love him and going outside with him when he needed to go outside. And trying to get pain killers down his throat. We would pet him until he fell asleep, and his breathing became somewhat easier, and then wait for him to wake up again and start over.

The next morning at about 7:30, I took him for his last walk around the back yard. I cried most of the way…


Then he rested in the piano room…



And played ‘hide and seek’ under the piano…



It was time to go…

We arrived at the vet hospital and met the nurse on the back side of the building. Eventually, we got into the room, where they had laid out a fluffy, soft blanket on the floor. Max knew what to do with that, so he got comfortable. I laid down on the floor close beside him, put my arm around him, facing him, each of us looking into each others eyes. Judy on the other side of him on a short chair, caressing his back while I stroked his head and neck area, speaking to him just above a whisper when I wasn’t choking up.

The nurse came into the room to flush out the catheter on his leg and make sure it was open. She asked if we would like a few more minutes. I said, “no. but if you can arrange it, we would like to have a few more years.” The nurse began to tear up and left to get the doctor…

After a few minutes, the doctor came in and re-explained what was going to happen.

She said, “I know that making this decision was the hardest thing you’ve ever done.”

“No,” I managed to get out, “This is the second hardest thing I have ever done. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is to observe the reason I did the second hardest.”

She paused a moment with a thoughtful look on her face…

Finally, she nodded her head in agreement and said, “Are you ready?”

Judy and I both answered, “Yes,” and I started talking to Max again while she retrieved the needle..

Both of us stroking Max’s now shaking body, I spoke into his ear, repeating the words he had come to know over the past three years. “You are such a good doggy, Max. What a good boy. You”re my best buddy and my best friend, Max. I love you, Max.”

One difference this time… I ended withI Love You, Max… Goodbye, Max…”

He stopped shaking. He stopped his labored breathing. He went limp. Judy and I both broke down…

It was exactly 10:00 AM…

Sometimes “goodbye” is the toughest love of all…

We had previously agreed to talk about something else on the way home, just so we could get home in one piece. I couldn’t help myself and started to say something about the events of the past three days when Judy interrupted me with “How about them Bears, huh?”

That got us home. As we walked into the house, I almost yelled out my, now, customary “Helloooooo Max!” but caught myself.

It didn’t matter – we both fell apart anyway. We wrapped each other in a consoling hug and regained our composure. Then we started gathering Max’s beds, toys and other things… More crying and consoling…

This has gone on the entire day. We are still very emotional about it. I am a wimp, but I think that in this case I can afford to be.

There is a sign in Max’s feeding room, above his full food bowl. Judy reached for it and I stopped her. I wanted to keep it there…


It’s still there…

Thank you, Lord, for bringing Max into our lives. Thank you for the joy he brought us.

Thank you for the laughter, the games of ‘fetch the duck’ and ‘keep away’ and a thousand other moments of fun and games.

Thank you for the buddy to take on a hike, always ready to hop into the car and take off for adventures unknown.

Thank you for allowing us into Max’s life – to give him a place and a family by whom to be loved, and to make his “golden” years a time of joy and security…

And thank you for the pain and grief we are feeling now – because from that we know that love exists…

I have often pondered, over the past three years, one week and one day, the fact that “God” spelled in reverse is “dog”. If God is love, and I believe He is, then can it be said that “Love is dog”?

Today, you would have a hard time convincing me otherwise…

Max going back up our driveway alone, ahead of us, after our last walk together around the neighborhood...We Love You, Max... Goodbye, Max...
Max going back up our driveway alone, ahead of us, after our last walk together around the neighborhood…
We Love You, Max… Goodbye, Max…

*If there is an ad below, I didn’t put it there… It’s a WordPress thing.

The Max Factor – Chapter Seven: Poetry Dedicated To Max (Maxetry) – Verse Two

Hello again, gentle reader… Once again, it’s time for another Max Inspired sonnet, officially inspired by Max…

I launch…

Max: A Dog’s Life

The Very William H. Kammerer, Jr., Esquire (not)


I spend my life barking at flies

And I wonder why

And so does the fly


I pass my day staring at cats

I think about that

And so does the cat


I often dream of chasing down cows

And I wonder how

And so does the cow


I truly enjoy hunting down deer

I’ll catch them, I fear

And so does the deer


I often succeed at sniffing out toads

when I’m on the road

And so is the toad


But most of all…


I LOVE to watch Master picking up poop

For he has no scoop

Nor does the poop

The End…

Thank you for listening…

Alpaca Facts – Chapter One: Let’s Go To An Alpaca Event!

Well, friends, it’s time to embark on another adventure into the wonderful world of Animals. This time, we are going to learn all about an animal near and dear to my own heart (they became that way yesterday), the Alpaca.

The Alpaca,” you ask?

Yes! The Alpaca,” I answer.

What is an Alpaca? Well, It’s kinda hard to describe unless you have seen one. Fortunately, I have seen one. In fact, I have seen several – all of them yesterday.

Thinking about it, it’s even hard to describe an Alpaca even if you have seen one. Or more. But they look kinda like a cross between a camel and a shetland pony. And if that doesn’t help, they also smell like a cross between a camel and a shetland pony.

Does that help?

Maybe this will help…

As we will see down the road, Alpacas come in a variety of sizes, colors and hair styles. But they all have the same number of humps – Zero.

This Alpaca (dubbed “Ringo” by my wife, Judy) is a fine example of a “Rock Star Alpaca”, as delineated by the hair style made famous by some 1960s rock group or other.

But I digress…

Why did I see several Alpacas yesterday?

I’ll tell you…

It all started when Judy and I were paying for our meal at China Delight a couple of weeks ago. We were standing at the cash register, and there it was, ensconced in the traditional “Free Rag” stand that you will see in many retail outlets.  The ubiquitous (in our area, anyway) Java Mountain News.

We really should avoid picking up the Java Mountain News but, as I said, it’s free…  And, besides, that’s where I got the idea for Cow Facts, one of my biggest hits on this site.

(Truth be told, I had been looking to the JMN for years in hopes of lightning striking twice and have been consistently disappointed in the content since the “Cow Facts” issue. I ceased reading it a couple of years ago because I couldn’t stand the frustration any longer.)

But I digress, yet again…

Judy decided that it was time to pick up another issue and did so.

And, like last time, nothing happened with it until a week.5 later when she needed something to read in the porcelain closet. Aparantly, she was so impressed by an ad that she left the JMN there, opened to the ad, for the next occupant to read and ponder.

Seeing as there are only two people currently residing at our house, I was the next occupant.

I read.

I pondered.

I immediately forgot all about it. 

Judy, on the other hand, is not one to forget an ad that looks like this:


So, when she and I were in the back yard yesterday draging dead trees from where they were to the vicinity of the burn pit, she said, “Hey – when we’re done here, you want to go see the Alpacas?”

Who are the Alpacas? Do we know them from church or do you work with one of them?”

Neither. They are animals and they live on a ranch in North Fork.”

What kind of animals?”

They’re hard to describe unless you’ve ever seen one.”

Wait a minute. Did you leave an ad in front of the throne?”

Yeah – that’s what they look like.”

How do they see? They don’t have eyes. Do they use sonar – like bats?””

Maybe that’s one of the many things we can learn about them when we go there.”

I think I have plans. I need to polish my nails. Or something. Maybe wash my hair.”

Come on! It will be fun!”

So is washing my hair.”

The “Look”…

OK. Let’s go see the Alpacas…”

To be continued…


Non Sequiturs – Scene one: Translational Medicine

My wife, Judy, is currently enrolled in medical school. Yes, medical school. At the University of Edinburgh School of Medicine in Scotland. Sounds impressive, huh? 

Well, actually, it is. She’s not studying to be a doctor, but to earn a certificate in Translational Medicine. One of the most impressive parts of this is that, normally, only Medical Doctors are accepted into that program. And not many of them, either.

Don’t ask me how she got accepted into the program – I have no idea. But I do know that this isn’t the first time she has mannaged to get into a highly specialized and prestigious program. A few years ago, she earned a Fellowship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Bioinformatics. In that program, there are only about 30 students accepted from around the world per year.  She is a Course Fellow in that program. (No, she is not coarse, and she most definitely is not a fellow, so don’t ask again…)

While motoring Northward last weekend with Judy, our son Steven and his girlfriend Amanda, I brought up the fact that “Mom is in medical school”.

Steve, while not unaccustomed to his mother being in some course of study or other, was somewhat intrigued by the fact that she was now in medical school.

“Really? Mom, are you going to be a doctor?”

“Well, no, Steve. I’m actually in a certificate program in Translational Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.”

“In Scotland?”

“Yes. In Scotland.”

“So, what’s translational medicine?”

At this point, Judy launched into a very detailed and informative description of Translational Medicine. And while the following is not word for word what she actually said (I borrowed it from wikipedia), it sounds remarkably like Judy’s monolog – it covers the same stuff.

Only she said a whole lot more and she went on for about 15 minutes

“It is the process which leads from evidence based medicine to sustainable solutions for public health problems. It aims to improve the health and longevity of the world’s populations and depends on developing broad-based teams of scientists and scholars who are able to focus their efforts to link basic scientific discoveries with the arena of clinical investigation, and translating the results of clinical trials into changes in clinical practice, informed by evidence from the social and political sciences. It has several phases:

“It investigates and translates non-clinical research results into clinical applications and tests their safety and efficacy in a Phase 1 clinical trial.The concept arose from research into pharmacotherapy and formed the initial basis for evidence-based practice and clinical guidelines, now incorporated into Translational Medicine. In the case of drug discovery and development, translational research typically refers to the translation of non-human research finding, from the laboratory and from animal studies, intotherapies for patients. This is often called “bench to bedside”. pharmaceutical companies and contract research organisations have a translational medicine division to facilitate the interaction between basic research and clinical medicine to design and conduct clinical trials….”

As I mentioned above, this kind of talk went on for about 15 minutes. I don’t know if anybody in the car, other than Judy, understood a word she said, but it sure sounded impressive. 

At this point, she took a breath. And that’s when Steve asked a pertinent question.

“So, will you get to carry a gun?”

I immediately pulled over to the far right lane because the tears were blurring my vision and it was getting hard to see well enough to drive safely…

Meanwhile Judy, completely unable to process what had just happened, sat in stunned silence for the next 22.3 miles, wondering what it was that she said that would cause everybody to laugh so long and hard…

And my stomach still hurts…

Conversations with Judy – Episode 12 – The Max Factor – Chapter Six Point Five: “The Dog” or “Max”

The setup:

This morning at about 4:45 I was lying in bed trying my best not to be awake when it occurred to me that I needed to visit the bathroom. So, stealthily so as not to disturb Judy from her slumber, I slithered from the bed and skulked my way to the bathroom.

After a successful mission there, I decided that I was ready for a glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast and I made my way to the kitchen.

While I mixed up my early morning pre-breakfast, by the light of the refrigerator, I looked out the window over the sink and discovered that it had snowed during the night – the first snow of the year. I thought that was kind of neat, so I went to the breakfast nook to get a better look through the larger windows.

Immagine my surprise when I discovered that, while standing at the window, my right foot was partially submerged in a puddle of cold liquid…

Thinking water must have leaked in through the window, I felt around the sill and frame for more moisture. There was none.

This was, both, a very good sign (because it meant that there was nothing wrong with the construction and installation of the windows) and a very bad sign (because the only other possible sources of the liquid I could think of were me, Judy and Max).

I knew it wasn’t me, and I was cautiously hopeful that it wasn’t Judy. That left only Max.

The chagrin I was experiencing was exacerbated by the fact that the sink and everything necessary to clean up the mess is located about 20 feet from where I was standing with my drippy foot. Not only that, but there is a glass dinette set and a granite island that are positioned between where I was and where I wanted to be.

As I had not the slightest desire to track the biologically induced liquid across the entire kitchen floor, it was required that I hop on one foot from point “A” to point”B” and back again, all the while negotiating the necessary course corrections around the previously mentioned impediments.

And, because I had closed the refrigerator door after constructing my breakfast drink, I had to do all this in the dark. 

After I did the cleanup job, both on the floor and my right foot, I went back to bed.

Judy had, somehow, woken up and asked me if everything was OK…

“Everything is fine. I just went to get something to drink,” I replied. “Except that the dog peed on the kitchen floor.”

“The dog?”

“Yes. I figure the only other possibilities were you and me, and I knew it wasn’t me. Plus, I assumed that it wasn’t you because you would have cleaned up after yourself.”

“But you said ‘the dog’.”

“Yes. The dog.”

“You have never referred to Max as ‘the dog’ before.”

“He has never peed on the kitchen floor before.”

“So if he pees on the kitchen floor, you call him ‘the dog’, but any other time he is ‘Max.”

“Yes….…………And let that be a lesson to you.”

As it happens, this warning appears to have been sufficient to keep Judy from peeing on the kitchen floor because it’s been about 15 hours and it’s still dry.

And this is a very good thing because I don’t want to have to call her anything other than ‘Judy’ or ‘Honey’ or ‘Sweetie’ or some other term of endearment. 

I’m fairly certain that we both like it that way…

Testing, Testing and Happy (Belated) Anniversary…

Well, a RARE experience here for y’all – something relatively serious (or at least heart felt) from me (On this blog site, anyway)- really…

A couple of days ago I started installing my replacement recording studio equipment (you may remember that the house burned down last year, and took about everything with it). I still haven’t finished, but I wanted to test what I had figured out up to that point. Basically, I got the microphones and monitors working. I haven’t figured out GarageBand, yet, but I was able to test using Photo Booth. 

Judy and I had planned to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary back in July with our family and some friends, but I ended up pretty nearly dying in the hospital for a few weeks, beginning on our anniversary – plans messed up.

Here we are in November, and I’m just about almost nearly back to normal and Judy baked the cake she had planned on baking for the event, last week, and we had our own celebration. As it happened, that was a couple of days before I picked up a guitar for just about the first time in just about forever and got up the energy to set this thing up, so I decided to test it with one of her favorite songs from John Denver..

Happy Anniversary, Judy…

Fingers still recovering… 🙂

Conversations With Judy – Episode 11.82: Hey Buddy, You Got The Time?

The setup – 

Judy, our son Billy, Lacey his wife and I took Max and Monk on a hike in Yosemite, today. It was a great time with lots of snow and mud, but, alas, it came time to get back home and give Max a bath… 

Now, Judy likes to know exactly how long it takes to get from point A to point B when we go somewhere, especially when it’s somewhere we may return to in the future, so back in the car after the hike, she asked what time it was… 

“What time is it?”


“I’ve got three minutes before 4:00.”

“I stand corrected.”

“My watch is always more accurate than your car clock.”

Conversations With Judy – Episode 10: Loud Bacon

Me: “Judy… JUdy… JUDy… JUDY!”

Judy is in the kitchen cooking breakfast and looks up from what she is doing, “Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the bacon.”

Two hours later…

Using a measuring cup, I have just poured a couple of cups of water into Max’s bowl and Judy is out on the deck saying something to me…

“Sojkhjgr ihre ifoeifuj hgouty.”


“S;lihgfok ujedhf gh soifkujid hjksjf.”

“Sorry, I can’t hear you over this cup.”

It worked better for her…